I was sifting through some old 120 black & white negatives yesterday and found these photographs from a morning’s photography along the old New Haven Railroad in Connecticut from June 1986.
I started the morning in South Norwalk, then moved down to Westport.
Most of the photos from the morning were exposed on Kodachrome slide film, but I made a few select images on Kodak Tri-X using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T using a 645-size ‘superslide’ insert to obtain a rectangular crop.
Most interesting to me now are the views of Amtrak’s eastward mail train behind AEM-7 904. This carried a group of baggage cars at the back including some from VIA Rail.
While I have detailed photographic notes from the day, what I don’t have recorded were my thoughts on the experience at the time. This was one of several similar trips I made to former New Haven electrified territory in the summer of 1986.
I made this telephoto view of a northward Amtrak shuttle (running from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts) using a Nikon F3 with a 105mm lens and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.
I like the way the Amtrak train glints in the morning sun.
To maximize tonality and detail, I used a split-development process, first soaking the film in a very dilute mixture of Kodak HC110, then using a more concentrated mix of Rodinal for primary development.
Last Thursday, May 9, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I set up at the former New Haven Railroad stone arch viaduct over the Farmington River at Windsor, Connecticut to catch CT Rail ‘s southward commuter train number 4407 .
When we arrived a line of a half dozen fishermen were in position on the south bank of the river.
Shortly before the train was due to pass, most of them concluded fishing and began to pack up.
It turns out that the Farmington River bridge is more famous as a place to fish than as a place to picture trains. There’s a plaque about the fishing and everything! Who knew?
For me the AEM-7s will always be ‘meatballs’. This name is twice-removed metaphorical allusion. The AEM-7 was derived from the Swedish class Rc electric. The allusion to meatballs is a reference to ‘Swedish meatballs’ and thus shortened to just meatballs, with Sweden being implied.
On December 27, 1986, my old pal TSH and I paid a visit to Bridgeport, Connecticut on a tour of former New Haven Railroad properties.
I made this photograph using my father’s Rollieflex Model T with 645 ‘super slide’ insert.
In my mind the composition made perfect use of the rectangular window. I wonder what I would have come up with if I’d exposed the view as a square?
In the days after exposing this photograph I made a large print, 11×14 or 16×20 in size, which has sadly vanished. Perhaps, someday I’ll make another.
While the New CT Rail trains tend to capture most of attention on the Springfield-New Haven route (now branded as the ‘Hartford Line’), Amtrak continues to run its shuttles and through trains on the same route.
I made this view last week of Amtrak 490 working northward to Springfield, Massachusetts as it crossed the Connecticut River between Windsor Locks and Warehouse Point.
I like the distant vantage point, using a telephoto lens to feature the small train on the big bridge.
Last week, Paul Goewey and I revisited Thompsonville, Connecticut, an old mill village along the former New Haven Railroad, just south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
I made photos here in the mid-1980s and late 1990s, but hadn’t scoped the location since the start up of CT Rail passenger services last year.
I’d been inspired to go back when I traveled on CT Rail a few days earlier.
These views were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 of southward CT Rail train 4405 on its way to Hartford and New Haven. I worked from the road, making images from the ‘dark side’ of the train by using my telephoto to feature the train rolling though the curve.
The former New Haven Railroad lift bridge over the Cape Cod Canal is an imposing structure that dwarfs everything around it.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit flat field super-wide angle lens.
To expose the second image, I extended the XT1’s rear display angling it upward and then looked down to it while holding the camera as close to the water as I dared in order to obtain a more dramatic view.
Among the benefits of the XT1’s display system is the built-in level, which I find very helpful when trying to keep the bridge level with the water.
Using the level with the rear display makes it much easier to make these close to the water photos. Back in the old days, I just had to guess!
I’ve made five traditional 11×14 black & white prints of my recent photograph of the former New Haven Railroad electrification and drawbridge at Westport, Connecticut.
This represents the first time I’ve printed one of my ‘stand processed’ black & white negatives. The prints are signed in pencil and numbered 1/5 to 5/5. One print has already been sold.
I’m selling the remaining four prints for $100 each plus shipping. First come first serve. If you are interested contact please me via email at: email@example.com
I exposed the photograph using a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens on 120 black & white film. I processed using the ‘stand processing’ technique to obtain maximum tonal range with deep shadows and delicate highlights.
I made these silver prints in the traditional way on Ilford double weight 11×14 photographic paper, fixed and washed to archival standards. These have been pressed and are suitable for matting and framing.
See my post called: Stand Process for more detail on how I processed the negatives.
I chose the Westport drawbridge because it is graphically engaging and historically significant. This bridge and electrification are examples of early 20thcentury infrastructure in daily use on one of America’s busiest passenger lines.
In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.
I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.
Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.
The old New Haven Railroad station at Berlin, Connecticut was a local favorite. Until recently, it was among the last small staffed Amtrak stations with an historic structure in southern New England.
My friend, and Tracking the Light reader, Bill Sample was a regular Amtrak Station Agent at Berlin. For me Berlin was like stepping back to that earlier era, when the small town station was the portal for travel. Bill would often help me plan trips and buy the most effective ticket for my travel plans.
The station itself was a gem. The interior retained characteristics of an early twentieth century station, complete with chalkboard arrival and departure information and rotating ceiling fan.
In recent months, the old Berlin station had been closed as part of double-tracking between Hartford and New Haven and related station renovations and construction of high-level platforms. The old building was to be integrated into a modern facility designed for more frequent service.
Wednesday (December 21, 2016), Otto Vondrak sent me the sad news that the old station had been gutted by fire. Media sources reported that the building was a ‘total loss.’
These Lumix LX3 digital photos show the building as I remember it in recent years.
The photographic lesson is: never take anything for granted no matter how familiar it is. Someday it may be gone without warning.
On this date 1984, my friends and I explored the ruins of New Haven Railroad’s Cedar Hill Yard (near New Haven, Connecticut).
In its heyday this vast facility had been a main gathering point for carload freight, and one of the largest yards in New England.
We were fascinated by this relic of the earlier age, when New England was a major manufacturing center and freight moved primarily by rail.
By 1984, Conrail still had a presence at Cedar Hill, but this was just a shadow of former times.
I exposed these images using my Leica 3A with 50mm Leitz Sumitar.
Here I’ve corrected the level, as at that time I had the unfortunate habit of tilting my camera 3-5 degrees off level. These days both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras have built in view-finder levels. Great features for modern cameras!
Sometimes a review of ‘out-takes’ will reveal a few gems. This is a lesson in how the passage of time can make the commonplace more interesting.
On the morning of September 7, 1989, I spent several hours around South Norwalk, Connecticut, making photos with my Leica M2 on Kodachrome 25 slide film. My primary subject was the old New Haven Railroad and the passage of Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
Since that time, the Metropolitan series cars that once dominated Metro-North’s suburban service have been all but replaced. But back then many of these cars still had a relatively new sheen to them.
More striking have been changes to the South Norwalk station. The scene is very different. Among the changes has been construction of a large multistory parking garage, which now occupies the space to the north of the station.
Yet, I also made a few photos of the town and passing road vehicles, which help give a flavor for South Norwalk in the late 1980s now more than a quarter century gone.
The best of the photos from this morning are held in a different file, and these are merely what I deemed at the time as ‘extras.’
Stop for a moment and gauge the passage of time and your relative perception of it.
I made this photograph about 1980. I’d been fascinated by the New Haven Railroad, and what I saw here I viewed then as a relic of times long gone.
The old railroads such as the New Haven were those that my dad had photographed back in the days of sunny Kodachrome.
At the time, I made this view of old New Haven cars at New Haven, Connecticut, I was 13. Conrail was then only 4 years old (formed on April 1, 1976), yet for me even its predecessor, Penn-Central was already a foggy memory.
Looking back now, to me it doesn’t seem so long ago that Conrail vanished (Its operations ended in 1999). And yet, for point of comparison Conrail been gone almost four years longer (17 years) than I’d been alive at the time I made the photo.
What is interesting? What seems old?
In a high-school math class, I once remarked to my teacher, Mr. Ed Lucas, “Time and your perception of time are in inverse proportions to each other. The more time you experience, the faster it seems to go by.”
He replied, “That’s awfully profound for someone your age!”
Before Christmas, I related this story over dinner. However, I was stunned to learn a little more than a week later that Ed Lucas passed away on New Years eve.
It doesn’t seem so long since I sat in his class, and yet in another way it also seems like the dawn of time (or my perception of time)!
On the afternoon of January 10, 2015, Pat Yough and I set up east of Branford, Connecticut to photograph Shore Line East passenger train 3637 working west toward New Haven on its namesake route.
It was clear and sunny, but exceptionally brisk (it was all of about 15 degrees F) . We braved the temperatures and after a while could hear the characteristic sounds of an EMD 645 diesel. I exposed a series of digital and film images. My favorite is the trailing view passing the old Atlantic Wire Company.
Success! And now time for a bowl of hot chili and an extra large cup of hot tea.
General Electric Dual Mode in New Haven Railroad Paint.
It was a bright Spring morning, when Pat Yough, Otto Vondrak & I made some photos along the former New Haven Railroad Danbury branch. We photographed this dual-mode at the old Danbury station.
It was about 30 years earlier, when my father, my brother Sean, and I boarded a wheezing Budd RDC at this very spot on a dull December day. The poor old car wasn’t working well and it coiled up when we reached Branchville, Connecticut. A substitute bus brought us to the mainline.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Yesterday (February 7, 2014), after several months of testing, Amtrak’s new ACS-64 Siemens built ‘Cities Sprinter’ locomotive 600 made its first revenue run on Amtrak train 171 (Boston to Washington).
My dad and I went to Milford, Connecticut on the North East Corridor to catch the new electric. Pop made some B&W photos with his Leica M3 from the east end of the platform. I worked the curve at the west end with my Canons.
I popped off a couple of slides with the EOS 3 with a 100mm telephoto, and exposed two bursts of digital images using the Canon 7D with 20mm lens.
By the way the 20mm on the 7D has a field of view equal to about a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.
The new electric sure looked nice! I’ll be keen to see the B&W photos and slides when they are processed.
After 171 passed, I made a few photos of a Metro-North local, then Pop and I went over to inspect the recently opened Metro-North station at West Haven, where we made a few photos of passing trains.
Broadside View of the Old New Haven Railroad Bridge.
What better than a bright sunny Sunday afternoon to execute a classic image of a big bridge.
Amtrak operates the former New Haven Railroad line between Springfield, Massachusetts and its namesake Connecticut city as a branch off its primary North East Corridor route.
In addition to shuttle trains running between Springfield and New Haven, the Washington D.C. to St Albans, Vermont, Vermonter travels this line daily. Infrequent freight services are operated by Connecticut Southern (sister operation to New England Central) and Pan Am Southern/Pan Am Railways.
Although much of the line is scenically challenged as it runs through built up suburban and urban areas of central Connecticut, it does have a few garden spots. I think the scenic highlight is this crossing of the Connecticut River near Windsor Locks.
I’ve made various views of this bridge over the years, and last Sunday (October 20, 2013) I thought I’d look for something a little different. There’s a lightly used road that follows the east bank of the Connecticut south of the bridge, and here I found a safe place to park and walk to the river,
A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) revealed the northward Vermonter was operating about 9 minutes behind its scheduled time. I was in position a good 20 minutes before the train and so had ample time to make test shots to pick the best angle and exposure.
I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens. The train rolled across the bridge at a restricted speed so it was easy to pick off several frames. The bigger challenge will be to catch one of the freights on this bridge. It’s been a good few years since I’ve succeeded in that mission.
On the afternoon of October 20, 2013, Amtrak train 54, the Sunday Vermonter crosses the Connecticut river on a 107 year old former New Haven Railroad span. Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens.
I exposed this view of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s Alco S-2 switcher with my old Leica 3A on black & white film on October 12, 1984. On the same day, I’d arranged with the railroad to ride this locomotive to Holyoke and back.
It was a memorable trip. In Holyoke we worked the Graham branch that followed the banks of old canals. Several times we had to stop to open and close gates across the line.
I featured this photo in my recent book North American Locomotives that features railroad by railroad locomotive profiles of many different lines. In addition to the Class 1 carriers, I also profiled a variety of smaller lines, many of which are my personal favorites.
Here’s an image from my early archives. I was wandering around Boston on a snowy day in January 1982. Among the other photos I made were views along the Green Line on Huntington Avenue. This one caught my eye the other day when I was reviewing my early work. It require a nominal crop. Many of my early photos tend to be off-level. This problem is easily fixed today.
South Station was the main passenger terminal for Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroads, and in the early years of the twentieth century was the busiest passenger station in the world (as measured in the number of daily train movements).
Exactly two years ago, I delivered my brother Sean to the Amtrak station in Berlin, Connecticut. He was on his way back to Philadelphia after a brief visit to Massachusetts. Amtrak’s Berlin agent, Bill Sample, is always very friendly and helpful, so we prefer Berlin over some of the closer stations.
I made this image of the southward shuttle train using my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens. There’s a lot of history in this simple photo. The train is led by a cab-control-car rebuilt from one of the old Budd-built Metroliner multiple units. Today’s single main track doesn’t tell much of a story, but Berlin was once a busy junction.
While Pan Am Southern’s route toward Plainville and Waterbury diverges here (at the left), this only sees about one round trip per week. Historically there was a diamond crossing here between New Haven Railroad lines. Also, one of New Haven Railroad’s earliest experimental electrified schemes reached Berlin, but I’m not sure if that would have been in this scene or not.
If all goes according to plan, the double track to Springfield, Massachusetts will someday be restored.
I made this unusual view of Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad Westport Drawbridge using my Contax G2 rangefinder with a 16mm Hologon lens. When kept perfectly level this lens allows for non-converging perspective of vertical lines, however off-level it produces extreme vertical convergence.
The antique electrification on this movable span was an ideal subject to explore this lens’s peculiar perspective. My vantage point was from a public walkway easily accessed from the westbound platform MN’s Westport Station. I’d first photographed this drawbridge in November 1985 using my dad’s old Rollei Model T with black & white film. Bright sunlight and low fair-weather clouds add depth and contrast.
Working with Westinghouse, New Haven Railroad had pioneered high-voltage alternating current overhead electrification for mainline use in the early years of the 20th century.